I get asked constantly what camera and lens I recommend for beginners so I thought now would be the perfect time to write an article answering that very question. My first camera was a NikonD90. I shot on that for about a year. It worked fine but I never liked that camera very much. Finally I bought a Sony Alpha A6000 and a 30MM lens from a friend and I've been a Sony fan ever sense. Whenever a new photographer asks me for a recommendation on a starter camera and lens for portrait photography under $700 I always recommend the Sony Alpha A6000 and here's why:
Best camera for Beginners on a Budget
1. The Size
One of my and so many other photographers favorite things about mirrorless cameras and Sony specifically is the size and more specifically how small and compact they are. These babies are so light you can go out and shoot for hours and barely notice its weight around your neck.
Sony offers plenty of smaller prime lenses that keep your kit small and compact without sacrificing image quality, my go to lens for portraits is the Sony 50mm f/1.8 - $348 or the Sony 85mm f/1.8 - $598
Pro tip: When looking for a lens, the lower F stop you can get the more narrow focus you can achieve and more importantly the more light you can bring in to your camera allowing you to shoot portraits in darker situations. The lower the Fstop the higher the price but totally worth it in my opinion.
2. View Finder
My favorite thing about my Sony mirrorless camera is the adjustable electronic viewfinder. Having the ability to preview your images on a larger screen before you take it will not only make your work more consistent but reviewing images with your clients on the spot has never been easier. Probably the biggest perk you get with an electronic viewfinder is getting a realtime preview of what your exposure will be. However there's a caveat, cameras with electric view finders (EVF) typically have significantly shorter battery life compared to cameras with optical viewfinders. So always have extra batteries on hand.
3. Image Quality
When it comes to image quality you will be pressed to find anything this good for this price. Coming from a NikonD90, I can say without a doubt that the Sony sensor trumps the Nikon sensor when it comes to dynamic range and shadow recovery without question.
The SonyA6000 offers unreal resolution at 24.3 mega pixels, dynamic range, and sharpness like you wouldn't believe, especially when coupled with the Sony 50mm f/1.8 - $348 or the Sony 85mm f/1.8 - $598
4. Eye Auto focus
Blurry portraits are a thing of the past thanks to Sony's continuous eye auto focus feature that allows you to get tack-sharp focus on your subjects eye at the push of a button. In good light the SonyA6000 is very accurate and consistent. In low light however it doesn’t work as well and has been known to revert back to facial recognition.
I love this feature because I don't have to focus and recompose my shot or keep adjusting my focus point. You know when it's working because It places a little box around your subjects eye and it will continuously track it as they pose and move around. As someone who likes to shoot at F1.8 this is a must-have feature.
5. Full Manual Control
As someone who shoots in full manual mode 100% of the time I've never understood cameras that only offer partial manual control. The SonyA6000 allows you to be in total control of your ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture so you can get the best results. Of course, if you feel more comfortable shooting in program modes, this camera has those too.
6. The Price
Right now you can get a Sony Alpha a6000 24.3MP Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm OSS Lens, 64GB SD Card, 40.5mm 3-Piece UV, CPL, FLD Filter Kit, 12-inch Spider Tripod, Two Batteries and a Dual Charger Pack, Digital SLR Camera Bag Bundle, and HDMI to Micro HDMI Cable all for just $698!! You wont find a better camera and lens for that price. It's the perfect starter kit and on top of that you could still purchase the Sony 85mm f/1.8 as an extra lens all for around $1,000!! Can't beat that!
1. Low Light Auto Focus
Now that I own a SonyA7iii, I have become accustomed to having great low-light autofocus. When I began using my Sony camera (the A6000) I couldn’t believe how inconsistent it was focusing in low light but I just figured that's what all Sony's were like. But that's not to say you cant still get a great photo in low light, you just have to be patient, take extra photos to be safe and be very still. More on shooting in low light HERE
2. Grain in Low Light with High ISO
Once again now that I own a SonyA7iii, I have become accustomed to having great low-light high ISO with little grain.
I noticed with my SonyA600 I was getting alot of noise in low light situations with my ISO above 500 that I no longer get with my SonyA7iii. I can crank that baby up past 1,200 and still have no grain :)
3. Battery Life
The one thing I will give Sony cameras a lot of shit for are their offensive battery life especially when compared to a DSLR.
Owning over 6 batteries has allowed me to never run out of juice while shooting a wedding or photoshoot, but having to always be aware of the battery life can be annoying. Charging the batteries every night can also become a nuisance, so make sure you own multiple battery chargers as well. For more Free Resources click HERE and make sure to connect with me on Instagram HERE
GEAR 👏🏻DOESN'T 👏🏻 MATTER (When you start out)
Honestly, you do not need an expensive camera, fancy lighting, or an outrageous lens to get started. The key is just starting. Everyone has a cellphone with a camera on it. You have the tools you need right in your pocket.
Some of the best creators on Instagram right now only use their iPhones. And as they say “The best camera you have is the one you have on you” I once had to use my cell phone for a real estate gig because my camera lens wasn’t wide enough for some shots and the client didn’t even notice.
Don’t believe me? Checkout these 5 random Mobile Photographers who are killing it right now.
The gear you use doesn’t matter when you start out. It's about the story, the creativity, the composition, and the emotions behind the photo. What’s most important is just start. I shot with a cellphone for years before I got my first camera.
Plus, if you don't teach yourself the principles and techniques of photography, it won't matter if you have a nice camera, because your photos will look like garbage. One of my most popular photos (The Pittock Mansion) was taken on my cell phone because that’s the only camera I had on me at the time.
Professional photographer Sephi Bergerson shot an entire wedding on his iPhone 6s Plus and were the results as good as they would have been with a camera? No. But were the bride and groom happy? Yes. Did he get paid? Yes. and that's all that matters. Making your clients happy
Same can be said for video. In fact did you know the Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh made his latest film Unsane using an iPhone 7 Plus, and the accolades the film has received suggest it was worth the risk. Did you know Lady Gaga‘s music video Stupid Love was shot on an iPhone 11 pro as well as Selena Gomez's Lose you to Love me video? And check out this epic snowball fight filmed by the great John Wick Director David Leitch on an iPhone 11 pro.
Now before you show this to a gear head and they lose their mind over the thought of someone using a cellphone for business keep in mind I'm only suggesting starting with a cell phone and upgrading when you're ready. There is no dispute, a camera lens will always take Higher Quality images than a cellphone. i.e. more pixels. and a cellphone will never give you that great depth of field you can get with a camera.
Say it with me:
Do you agree?
With the holidays coming up I figured now would be the perfect time to put together a list of my favorite books that have made the biggest impact on my photography business and life. Every book on this list has real life tactical advice you can start using right away to bring in more clients and elevate your photography game. That being said you will notice not one of these books is about photography. However, you can use the tools, tactics, and rituals in each of these books to elevate your business just as I have. All of these books can be found on Amazon and audible for those who'd rather listen on audio. Just click the links or images and it will take you right to amazon. Let me know if you found this list useful.
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon $9.97 - Creativity
Steal Like an Artist is a short easy ready that will inspire any photographer. This book is all about creativity and how you can be inspired by other artists work without copying their work. Everything is inspired by something. What's important is putting your own spin on it to make it unique to you. This book is a guide with a positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put you directly in touch with your creative side.
The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod $17.96 - Morning Routine
The Miracle Morning is a Must have for every photographer whether they work mornings or not. Every successful entrepreneur has a tried and true morning routine that sets them up for success. Most of us aren't naturally early risers but this book will teach you to love it I promise you that. This book transformed my morning routine. Every once in a while, you read a book that changes the way you look at life. But it is so rare to find a book that changes the way you live your life. The Miracle Morning does both. This Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) is a MUST.
The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy $12.43 - Eradicating bad habits
As a photographer and entrepreneur you face small decisions all day every day that will put you on 1 of 2 paths. One that gets you closer to your goals or one that gets you further away. The thing about small decisions is that it's easy to make the wrong decision in the moment because we aren't thinking about the big picture and how these decisions will impact our goals down the road. This book transformed the way I look at decision making.
No gimmicks. No Bullshit. No Magic pill. The Compound Effect is based on the principle that decisions shape your destiny. Little, everyday decisions will either take you to the life you desire or to disaster by default. This is one of my favorite books of all time!
The Entrepreneur's Blueprint to Massive Success by Peter Voogd $12.99 - A bit of everything
No BS, No fluff, No Academic Theories, and No Sugar Coating. Just real world, tactical, hard core strategies from being in the trenches. I have probably read this book 10 times. I love it because it takes the best parts of so many different self help books and crams them into one book. This is a must have for any photographer!
Living with a SEAL by Jesse Itzler $14.95 - Motivation to never Quit
If I had 2 words to describe this book it would be MOTIVATING & HILARIOUS. The tone of the book is like this: imagine being at a bar with a person that seems really interesting; you don't know them, but you feel like they have some cool things to say. So, you listen. This book motivated the shit out of me to grow, push harder when I think I'm done and to do more through humor and stories without getting preachy. Don't be fooled, yes this book can be extremely motivating in the gym but I have found it to be just as motivating when it comes to photography. There will be times when you want to give up photography that I can promise you. It's one of the hardest industries to be successful in but this book will motivate you to hold the line and keep going.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle $12.99 - Being Present
As photographers I think it's crucial we don't lose sight of the moment we are capturing. On a shoot it's so easy to always be thinking about whats next. It's so easy to look back at past photos and criticize our work. It's so easy to get caught up on finding clients and future projects that we forget to appreciate the moment. It's our job to capture special moments. Being present is the best way we can achieve that. The message in this book is simple yet trans-formative: living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment. It wasn't till I read this book that I understood the power of focusing on my current situation and letting go of the past or expectations of the future. They don't matter, all we have is right now.
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss $14.88 - Tactics, Routines, & Habits from Billionaires
This book contains the tools, tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers you won’t find anywhere else.
What makes the book different from most is a relentless focus on actionable details. This is reflected in the questions. For example: What do these people do in the first sixty minutes of each morning? What do their workout routines look like, and why? What books have they gifted most to other people? What are the biggest wastes of time for novices in their field? What supplements do they take on a daily basis? You get the idea. What most photographers don't understand is that you can learn life and business altering tactics from world-class performers in a range of industries outside our own.
#AskGaryVee by Gary Vaynerchuk $14.95 - Social Media Tactics
Look, if you're a photographer trying to make money with photography you need this book. End of story. I own all of Gary Vees books and they are all great but this one has the most applicable information for you to consume and use right away. 95% of my clients come from Facebook and Instagram (without adds) and that's because I use the information I learned in this book to slay the social media game.
#AskGaryVee features the most useful and interesting questions Gary has addressed on his popular Youtube channel. Gary presents practical, timely, and timeless advice on marketing, social media, entrepreneurship, and everything else you've been afraid to ask but are dying to know. Gary gives you the insights and information you need on everything from effectively using Twitter to launching a small business, hiring superstars to creating a personal brand, launching products effectively to staying healthy-and even buying wine. Buy this book, then buy his others.
The One Thing by Gary Keller $15.99 - Time Management & Goal Setting
"What is the ONE Thing today I could do that by doing it would make everything else easier or unnecessary?" This is the foundation of The one thing. Time blocking (time management), setting goals, making priorities, and letting go of the time wasters in our life/business are all reasons you need this book. The one thing is actionable and easy to read. It's a game changer for any photographer that wastes crucial time every day doing meaningless tasks. News flash, that's all of us.
Holiday shopping can be such a drag. I know how stressful it can be to not only come up with gift ideas for yourself but to predict what your friends or family might want so I put together this list of the perfect gift ideas on amazon sure to please any photographer in your life. And before you ask no I'm not sponsored by any of these brands. Want to find out more about an item below, just click the photo or link and it will take you straight to it on Amazon :)
When it comes to photography we can never have enough space in camera and This card dramatically accelerates workflow from start to finish, so you can save time and get back to the business of photography.
"I bought this card for an older digital camera that, when set to RAW, had a delay processing. so you couldn't snap a photo and be ready for the next for a few seconds. In photography, a few seconds means you could miss the perfect shot! Works perfectly and quick!" - Bill R Littlejohn
For any beginner looking to get their first SLR camera you can't beat this price for the quality you'll be getting. This was the first camera I bought and used it for years with a sigma 30MM 1.4 lens. It never failed to produce amazing images. It's a perfect lightweight camera for portraits.
"I have nothing but good things to say about this camera. I have owned my Sony A6000 for just over a year now and it has been nothing short of perfect. I am a beginner photographer and it has taken high-quality, professional photos. I purchased an additional lens to take night photography and this camera has been amazing. If you're a beginner photographer looking to get into either landscape or portrait photography, this is the camera for you! It's smaller and lighter than most DSLRs and it's very intuitive to learn the settings and controls." - Zack Nicol
Coming from experience a drone is a great addition to any photographers tool kit and at this size and price point the value of a drone has never been better. This baby can fit in your pocket and is a game changer for any photographer/videographer.
"Flys great, easy to handle, and the picture/video quality is amazing. For never having a drone before this one makes it easy to get up and going quickly. Its so small and portable so easy to take anywhere." - Bryon Fowler
When it comes to space, a photographer can always use more. Raw files take up an outstanding amount of room on a computer. Hard drives and external drives can fill up fast. More room to store files will always be appreciated.
"I've been subscribing to an online/cloud backup company for years. This year, the annual renewal price went up significantly, causing me to look for alternative backup ideas. I knew about external hard drives but they used to be a lot more expensive; I was surprised to see how much they've come down in price since I last looked at them. The price of this 2TB hard drive was less than one year of the online cloud service!" - Lotus54
A photographer can always use more light. There are countless situations where I wish I had an extra light source and even better this light is smaller than a cellphone and extremely light weight. Plus it has 8 color options! An extremely valuable addition to any photographers camera bag. Any portrait photographer would love this.
"Bottom Line: It will do anything you want in the way of lighting a scene to your satisfaction and do it well and inexpensive compared to the more "profession" lights with the big names. 5 Stars for one of the most versatile camera accessories I have seen in years at any price." - Douglas C. Meeks
Let's face it. Unless you're only shooting in a home studio you're doing alot of driving as a photographer. I've tried many cellphone holders on the market and this seems to be the best for the price hands down. I mean 4.4 out of 5 stars with 14,000 reviews.... You can't go wrong.
"Pros: magnets are extremely strong and hold your phone well to the clip, great product and works exactly as expected. Cons: NONE!" - michael thomas
Speaking of camera bags this is the best one on the market I've seen for this price point. Every photographer needs a camera bag. The many times I've been on a shoot and didn't bring one I regretted it because I surely forgot something I needed.
"Rather roomy, I was able to fit in body +3-4 lenses with ease and had some space for flash, memory cards, filters and other things, I think I could have added a tablet or small laptop, but the bag would be too heavy. Well built, all seams look strong, plastic looks quality, no complaints regarding quality whatsoever." - Dima
Tape is a life saver in countless situations but a must have for any portrait photographer. I use this tape any time I use my lighting and need to tape down the cables so no one trips.
"Love this stuff. It's worth every penny! I've used gaffers tape in MANY ways. I just ordered a roll and used half of it at a photo gig to tape some light stands to concrete pillars (which allowed me not to extend the legs and take up space and cause a tripping hazard). I've used this stuff for years in many capacities - video productions, photoshoots, pro audio applications and even to cover the entire back passenger window on my car after it had been completely busted out by theif. I've taped to painted walls, carpet, dresses, very hot light fixtures, audio and power cables, metal, painted metal, people, etc. It's awesome 99.9% of the time and never leaves residue unless it's your fault." - Bradley
Look, if you're a photographer or someone you know is a photographer trying to make money with photography you need this book. End of story. You can get the hard copy or on audio. I own all of Gary Vees books and they are all great but this one has the most applicable information for you to consume and use right away. 95% of my clients come from Facebook and Instagram (without adds) and that's because I use the information I learned in this book to slay the social media game.
"Gary Vaynerchuk is an entrepreneur. I lead my review with that, because this book is an MBA in all things entrepreneur. He doesn't sugarcoat things, bulls*** you, or promise pipe dreams. What he does, is break down in common sense terms how to use Social media marketing and common sense to grow your business and succeed." - Send it!
Don't let the name fool you. This coffee tastes nothing like mushrooms. If you're anything like me you're on the go constantly. Sometimes you don't have time to make coffee or stop at a coffee shop so this Delicious Organic instant coffee does the trick. Half the caffeine, double the mental clarity. Organic Lion’s Mane mushroom is a natural nootropic shown to support memory, focus & concentration.
Been a big fan of these 'shroom coffees for almost a year now. First heard about them on the Tim Ferris podcast, and I've big been hooked ever since! The Lion's Mane mushroom is where it's at - it really acts as nootropic brain candy and never fails to give me a mental edge. It's also great because I've recently been trying to wane myself off of coffee, mainly because of acid reflux problems. And throughout that transition, the mushroom coffee has been fantastic because it only has the caffeine of 1/3 cup of coffee and I experience no reflux symptoms that I get from regular coffee. Triple win! Aside from the Lion's Mane, the coffee mix also has Chaga in it which is great for immunity and skin clarity.
I good small compact flashlight can come in handy on a late shoot. This is one of those gifts you hate to go buy yourself but as a gift you'll be happy you have it in your camera bag.
"This Soonfire rechargeable flashlight is a mini powerhouse. Easily fits in palm of hand yet puts out a strong , bright , expansive beam of light. Being able to charge the battery without removing it from flashlight is extremely convenient ; can recharge with Included USB cable at home , in vehicle , or with portable battery charger." - Gapster
Photographers are on the run alot. We definitely get our steps in when we aren't stuck inside editing photos all day. It's nice to keep track of those miles we put in at least it is for me. It's also nice to have a watch when your on a schedule as we usually are.
"I absolutely love this Fitbit- it’s my 3rd. A little wider than my Alta but doesn’t feel as bulky. I love that I can see my steps and heart rate without changing screens. I also like that I can see who is texting me." - cate612
Perfect compact case to hold and organize all your smaller items to keep your camera bag nice and organized. Great things to store in this for a variety of situations could be rope, zip ties, flashlight, lighter, super glue, tape, Ibuprofen, knife, safety pins, extra batteries, an extra memory card and some cash because it's always good to have some in case there's a fee at a trail head you didn't know about.
"Very good job on the stitching. I am always wary of pouches etc from Amazon. You just never know what the stitching is going to look like. I was very satisfied with the stitching on these. The materials are of excellent quality, and feel very solid and durable." - Bill Lask
I know, if you're from the Pacific North West like I am you probably think you're too good for an umbrella but fact is if your a photographer in the PNW you will shoot in the rain at some point and a good umbrella has saved my equipment more than once. I choose to use an umbrella instead of rain guard for my camera because this keeps me, my camera, and lens dry. I just hold the umbrella in my armpit. It's not the most convenient but it works.
Of all the lenses I own this has to be my favorite. You simply cant beat the quality it produces for the price. This is the sharpest lens I've ever used and the Bokeh is so dreamy. This is a MUST HAVE for any Sony lover.
"Most cost effective choice for a portrait lens out there for Sonys. The pics from this are very sharp, the focus very quick. If you're trying to decide between this and the Zeiss 85, save some money and choose this lens. It's a great buy!" Jim F
Being able to edit on the go is a huge advantage for any photographer. This compact affordable laptop is perfect for any true professional.
"This laptop is a fantastic deal for the price. The laptop uses the same body as the $500+ Acer Aspire 5 models which is to say it is a fantastic body that is light and compact and very portable. Ram can easily be upgraded and adding a 2.5" SSD allows for additional memory over the 128gb included on the computer. The keyboard is comfortable to type on and as a bonus still includes a full numpad even if it is a bit cramped. The screen is a solid IPS screen and when you consider the price tag is amazing and beats a lot of the more expensive laptop screens I have seen." - Chris Rosewill
Every Portrait photographer needs at least one tried and true quality backdrop. Kate on amazon has the best quality fabric backdrops I've ever used. She has multiple colors and designs. They are top quality.
"Worked great and made a huge difference in the pictures." - Nelson P
Clamps, always good to have in your camera bag in case of emergencies. These are life savers even used for wardrobe to save the day more than once.
"Does what it needs to do. Holds up backdrops and blankets well (even with my 90 pound dog laying on the blanket it's holding up)." - Booknerd28
Every photographer needs a tripod in their camera bag.
"This acts like a tripod in places where its impossible to get a real tripod into! or bend all three legs and use it as a selfie stick. this is the perfect pod to do run and gun shooting for vlogs on youtube. The new 3k/2k/1k/5k models have enhanced glue on the ball joints so it wont go loose as quick as the previous older gen models. the panning mode on the ballhead is perfect, and comes in handy for those cinematic shots for sure. the material used is great and feels EXTREMELY sturdy in my hand. my DSLR didnt budge one bit while on this pod. Leave it to joby to make an excellent product!" - Marks Tech
This is a great little addition to any photographers work desk for peace and relaxation.
Any photographer knows the anxiety that can come with editing and waiting for files to transfer or renders so the calming glow from a salt lamp goes along way.
"I purchased this salt lamp with low expectations of any kind of health benefits. The price point is low enough to be worth the risk and it is a good looking decoration. I can say that I have been blown away by the performance of this lamp. I turn it on when I sleep on a dim setting and have noticed that when I wake up, I can breathe better through my nose. I assume this is due to the dust, pollen, general particulate attracting characteristic of the salt lamp. I have used all sorts of diffusers and oils, nose filters, etc and this lamp has given me better results than all of them. " - BJ
Bonus Gift - Nespresso Espresso Machine $125.30
Okay so I know I mentioned coffee already but maybe Organic Mushroom Coffee isnt your thing. Maybe you prefer Espresso. Well there is no better Espresso maker on the market for this price. Nore will you find one easier to use and it's small and compact. Perfect for any photographers work desk. Just what you need to get you through those long hours at the computer editing photos.
"I just love this machine. They did a great job with their new vertuo line. The coffee is always super creamy, regardless of the kind of coffee. The machine is so easy to clean, easy to be refilled, etc. It is also not that noisy, given the centrifuging technology on it. I really recommend." - Matheus
Author Lance A Reis
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